The kitchen is a home’s hub, whether you’re making a meal, the kids are doing homework, or you’re hosting a dinner party. But what do you do if you’ve got a small kitchen and what seems like not enough space for a traditional table-and-chairs setup?
That’s where you have to be crafty, creative and willing to think differently when it comes to seating arrangements and eating habits, say interior designers and home organizers. Finding a way to get some chairs, an island or even a table that can comfortably seat six or 12 can be done, but you need to be strategic about how the space is laid out or how the furniture will work.
Finding space for a traditional table or lots of chairs is the first step. Utilizing every inch of that space is the goal, says Anna Popov, founder of Interiors by Popov. For example, Popov is a fan of a console table setup where it can transition into a larger table, ideal for holiday gatherings.
Popov worked with a homeowner who loved to entertain and at least twice a year hosted an 18-person dinner party. The challenge was that she lived in an 1,800-square-foot townhouse, so the design had to leave room for flexibility and adapt to her needs.
Popov created a kitchen with an island, an eat-in table adjacent to the island, and an extendable dinner table that were all the same width and, in the case of the latter two, the same height.
“The result is a seemingly continuous dining table that seats 18,” Popov says. “There is not a ‘one solution fits all’ design approach for these situations — everyone has different needs.”
Here are some other space-saving solutions for adding seating for one, two, or even a dozen or more people into kitchens of any size.
Hang It and Fold It
Building additional seating, a desk or even a table using fold-down furniture on hinges that allow the items to be used and then put away can help add more function to a kitchen, says Judi Kutner, a real estate agent in West Palm Beach, Florida, and author for apartment advice website Apartment Notes. “You could create a desk area within your kitchen using an elevated platform, built-ins or barstools placed at different heights so you can work while standing or sitting down,” Kutner says.
Eugene Colberg, principal at Colberg Architecture located in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, says a modern yet elegant solution is motorized furniture that can fold out from a wall. “There is another new kind of motorized furniture that descends from the ceiling,” Colberg says.
Repurpose Underutilized Spaces
That unused closet or pantry? Turn it into a small dining area with a folding table and chairs. When you’re done with the meal, everything tucks neatly away again. Another idea is to swap out your oversized dining table with a pint-sized kitchen version, says Jennifer Spinelli, founder and CEO of Niche Home Buyer.
Colberg describes using a space formerly holding a dishwasher to create a seating area. “We removed the dishwasher and in that 24-inch-by-24-inch space, we put in a top that glides underneath the countertop with two stools,” Colberg says. “It comes out and serves as a temporary tabletop and goes away when not in use.”
Blend Storage and Seating
The kitchen is the heart of the home, so you want to have a comfortable spot for people to gather, says Denise Supplee, a licensed Realtor at Long and Foster in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and founder of Spark Rental.
“Years ago, I saw one of the best ideas ever: Built-in storage benches were used for seating, so they provided double duty, and a small cafe table was placed in front,” Supplee says. “It was very quaint and made the small kitchen look warm and inviting.”
L-shaped banquettes also take advantage of corners, typically underutilized kitchen spaces, says Ben Kuhl, a home remodeler and CEO of Shelf Expression in Charlotte, North Carolina. “Banquettes can be designed in a wide variety of ways and can really lend additional avenues to add more unique design elements to the kitchen,” Kuhl says.
Do Double Duty
Those nooks and crannies in your kitchen? They’re ripe for seating solutions, says Stacy Lewis, an interior designer in Vancouver, Canada, and owner of Eternity Modern, an ecommerce store specializing in midcentury modern furniture and decor.
“A window seat is a great way to add extra seating without taking up too much space,” Lewis says. “Try using benches or ottomans that double as storage containers. If you have extra chairs or stools in your living room or den, bring them into the kitchen. This is a great way to accommodate larger groups of people without making your kitchen feel cramped.”
Put It on Wheels
Gunner Davis, a real estate broker from Tampa, Florida, says if a kitchen island isn’t possible, go with a portable one on wheels. “Being portable, it can be placed anywhere convenient and pulled out in time for use,” Davis says. “These islands work as great sidebars, too. You just have to reorganize when using it.”
If you really want to combine comfort and an out-of-the-box solution, Vy Truong, co-owner and creative director at Very Handsome Studio interior design in Houston, suggests lounge furniture. Yes, right there in the kitchen.
“Building a lounge space within your kitchen and breakfast area maybe unheard of, but why are these spaces exclusive of each other when they serve similar functionalities? Adding a lounge chair or even a short sofa to your cocktail dining tables could ignite a reminiscent memory of eating on your couch and watching TV at your parents’ home,” Truong says.
If you’re looking for inspiration, check out how people live in Europe and Asia for ideas on making small spaces function as well as beautiful, Popov says. These households invest in good, quality “smart” furniture as well, she says.
“Smart furniture that transforms or converts into another functional item, such as a coffee table that rises up, can be used as a dining table. Or simply opt for a small bistro table with two complementing chairs; that can offer a quick and lovely solution,” Popov says.
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